//
AUG
02
2015

Cuernavaca

After our little debacle in Acapulco we were looking forward to getting to Cuernavaca. Visiting Acapulco would have to wait for winter, for now we needed to get back inland.

We got to town and started looking for the campground. We followed our directions but couldn’t see any sign of it. Gone. We had another one listed so we headed there instead. We pulled up out front of the gate and rang the bell. Closed. For years now we were told. But we were also told there was a campground just a couple of miles back down the road.

We drove along and as if by miracle I spotted a small sign tucked behind another. Camping. It turned out to be the one we were looking for in the first place. So yeah, occasionally a GPS could make life easier. Behind the gate we found a swimming pool, playground, and a couple acres of grass and trees. Phew.

July31-3 July31-1 July31-2

After a couple of days cooling off period we were ready to explore a couple of cities. We left the bus behind and made for Cuernavaca.

Aug01-1 Aug01-2 Aug01-3

Saturday afternoon at the cathedral the weddings run as if on an assembly line. It’s quite a sight to see.

Aug01-4

What the…?

Aug01-5 Aug01-6

The first day of the rest of our lives.

Aug01-7

The Robert Brady Museum was a welcome surprise. An Iowan who came from a wealthy family, he traveled the world collecting art and eventually settled here in Cuernavaca in an amazing house abutting the cathedral. Walking through the house all I could think was that if I had that kind of money this would not be a bad way at all of using it.

Aug01-8 Aug01-9

Walking past here Ouest asked, “If there is a Wonder Woman that isn’t too scary can I get it?”

Aug01-10 Aug02-1

Inside the Palacio de Cortes was a whole bunch of cool stuff: swords, guns, money, and Diego Rivera murals.

Aug02-2 Aug02-3 Aug02-4 Aug02-5 Aug02-6 Aug02-7 Aug02-8

We can never decide—straight-face or smiles.

Aug02-13 Aug02-9 Aug02-10 Aug02-11 Aug02-12 Aug02-15

Today the four of us were waiting for an elevator. Ali and I were talking about our plan for the afternoon when it arrived. The kids stepped in, but we were still talking about what we were doing and if I needed to run across the street to grab some lunch. As we were talking the elevator door closed with the kids inside. We hit the button, but it took off without us. We yelled to the kids to just stay on.

Ali jumped in the other elevator and started the chase while I stayed put and watched the kids’ elevator climb. To the top floor it went, then back down it started, stopping at four different floors before finally hitting the ground again. Ali was already back by this point.

The full elevator opened up and our kids came spilling out holding hands. Ouest was super close to tears, but held it together. Lowe stayed quiet. We told them we were sorry, and that they did a great job taking care of each other, and all the other proper parental words we could think of. Then I headed across the street while everyone else went up to the room.

As soon as they got to the room Lowe broke down.

“Are the police going to come and get us?” he asked through choked sobs.

“The police? No honey, everything is okay. It was just an accident. You guys did great. It’s all done now. It won’t happen again.”

“When Little Critter (kid’s book character) got lost the police took him away.”

“Oh, baby, Little Critter was lost at the mall and he couldn’t find his mama. But we weren’t lost. We found each other.”

He came around eventually, but man, kids are so sweet and innocent it pains me. You never know what is going through their minds.

JUL
29
2015

Love Motel

We’d been inland for a couple of months, and we were starting to miss the beach. But a week or two down here in July has reminded us why we never spent a summer on the boat in Mexico—it’s just too hot to enjoy. It’s one thing if there are no kids involved. In that case you get up and do something in the morning, then you hide out inside during the heat of the day, and finally head back out for some nighttime fun. But that time line doesn’t work for our kids. The hottest part of the day is when they are most eager to be outside doing something. We gave it our best shot. We hit the beaches, we played in the shade, we hosed ourselves down whenever we could, but in the end we had to turn tail and start our run back to elevation.

Looks like the guy is practicing Tai-Chi, but he’s actually in the process of casting his fishing line.

July29-10 July28-1

Playa Carrizalillo. The only way down to this small beach is the stairs. This was a fun place to spend an afternoon. The beach hut we parked ourselves had a minimum price of 250 pesos for the beach chairs and umbrella, but from that price they deducted our drinks. So that works. And the surf was just “calm” enough not to drown us all—a rarity in these parts.

July28-2 July28-3 July28-4 July28-5 July28-6 July28-7 July28-8

And you think doing laundry is a pain in the ass.

July29-1

From Puerto Escondido we headed north for Acapulco. It’s about 240 miles of decent road punctuated by way too many tiny villages full of topes. There are no camping options between the two cities, and only a couple of possible beach type boondocking spots. With the heat we decided we’d just hit the road early, suck it up, and blast through in one go.

July29-2

There was a stretch about twenty miles long where every single road sign was doubled up. The old ones were all in good condition, but for some inexplicable reason new signs had been stuck in the ground ten feet in front of each of them.

I like this one the best just because they mixed up their wiggles.

July29-3 July29-4 July29-11

These are called heat naps.

July29-5 July29-6 July29-7

It took us a good ten hours (with stops) to cover the two-hundred-forty miles. As we rolled into Acapulco the sweat was pouring off of us—the heat from the engine and the road had turned the bus into a sauna. We were so ready to park, get outside, and shower off.

We found the trailer park without too much trouble. The big sign hung over the road in front of the closed gate. There was a security guard standing there though, so we gave a honk and expected he’d swing the gate open. Instead he looked at us with total confusion. Uh-oh.

He let us in to what had, at some point in the past, been a nice RV park. No longer. Now it was some sort of construction company loading site. No, we couldn’t stay. I talked to the people there for a bit—asking about other camping options or even a nice hotel—and eventually came away with something called Pension Gamela. Okay, I thought, it must be some sort of hotel. That’s what a pension is, right?

Wrong. We left and got lost immediately. I stopped and asked taxi drivers where Pension Gamela was and wasn’t coming up with much. Then one guy said it was just up the road on the right. We continued on but didn’t see anything. Tensions were rising steadily inside the bus.

I stopped at a gas station and asked around. Got directions once again, but then decided to find a taxi driver who knew the place and could lead us there. For fifty pesos I found the right lady, and off she went, with us in hot pursuit.

When she pulled up in front of Pension Gamela our spirits sank. It was nothing but a big dirty parking lot full of semi-trucks. We were soaked in sweat, covered in road grime, and the bus was warm enough to bake bread. This was not going to work.

I asked the taxi driver to lead us to a hotel. She couldn’t think of anything where we could bring the bus along. Hotels in the center of the city she said were full, and they didn’t have places to park the bus anyway. She said she did know of a motel just down the road. Okay, whatever.

Of course, motels in Mexico are not the same as motels in the States. Motel here means Love Hotel, payable by the hour. We pulled up out front and spirits sank ever lower. It was past the kids’ bed time and it would be dark very soon. We really had no idea whatsoever where we were, and didn’t have any idea where else we could go. We were in a bind.

I made one last dash around town with the lady in the cab, but we came up empty. We talked to a couple of hotel hawkers (guys that stand on the side of the road waving Tourist Information signs), but even they could think of no good place for us to go. In the end I relented, and we returned to the bus with the news that this was our home for the night.

Turns out that next door to the motel a lady had a big yard where we could park the bus (the motel parking lot had a low overhang we couldn’t get through). So in the end Ali grabbed the kids and all the pillows and blankets and headed into the motel room while I parked the bus and stayed aboard for the night in Schulte’s Inferno.

This had to be one of our lowest points in travel memory.

July29-8 July29-9

Completely unrelated: We were driving along one day when we spotted a truck full of chickens. This led to a conversation about where our food comes from. We’ve had a lot of these conversations lately, it seems. Anyway, Lowe announced that he didn’t want to eat any more animals. Ali told him that’s fine, but that meant no more chicken, no more steak, no more hamburger, no more sausage, no more bacon. Immediately at the mention of bacon Lowe broke back in like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa there Mama, “Would maybe just bacon be okay?”

I don’t think he’s quite ready for vegetarianism.

Which leads me to our dinners out. Lowe is pretty picky about his hamburgers, so that simple standby is out. He’s not really into chicken, though he’s been coming around a little bit on that one. He would happily eat five or six orders of bacon, but that’s generally not an option either. Fish? Nah.

The one thing that we can count on him eating every time? Arrachera. That’s Mexico’s skirt steak. A tender, marinated, clean cut of steak. Generally the most expensive item on the menu of the type of restaurant that we frequent. For probably a year or more now I haven’t even had to bother looking at a menu because I’m getting the Arrachera. Some days he eats a third of it, some days he eats all of it. Oh, and Ouest is usually good for at least one taco made out of it. I eat the scraps, and Ali usually shovels half of whatever she ordered onto my plate. The kid is only four (not even) and I already have to entertain the idea of ordering him his own steak? We’re screwed.

JUL
25
2015

Hot on the Beach

We’re down in Zipolite which is a beautiful, sort of away-from-it-all, type place. Unfortunately the beaches in this area are almost universally unsafe for swimming, especially for small children. However, it’s too hot and humid down here to do anything but go to the beach. So we tried a couple of different ones out, played in the shade as much as possible, and splashed around in the shallows whenever the seas let up a bit.

Oh, we also visited the Mazunte Turtle Center.

July25-1 July25-2 July25-3 July25-4 July25-5 July25-6 July25-7 July25-8 July25-9 July25-10 July25-11 July25-12 July25-13 July25-14 July25-15 July25-16 July25-17

JUL
23
2015

Lowe is Four—Unofficially

Nobody in history has ever cared less about their age. Ask Lowe how old he is and he’ll answer—or maybe he won’t, depending on his mood—two, five, nine, eleventeen. So when it came time to give him his first pedal bike—and his birthday was still a month off—we just said screw it, “Happy Birthday!”

We drove down to Zipolite hoping to find a beach to camp on. We didn’t, so we settled for the hotel RV park with a pool. It’s roughly one-hundred-sixty degrees down here currently, so the pool was a must. I thought about setting up a jump at the edge and just letting him hit it.

Birthdays are sort of the one tradition we have in our household. Birthday mornings mean balloons. Lots and lots of balloons.

July23-5 July23-1 July23-2 July23-3 July23-32

We hid twenty pesos in two balloons. Lowe found the first one before we had even told them about it. We told him, “Good job, but if you find the next one, you have to give the money to Ouest. You each get one.” He immediately lost interest. Meanwhile, our money grubber Ouest went into full crazed-treasure-hunter mode. She searched and searched, and then of course Lowe spotted the next one as well and completely ruined Ouest’s day. She really does love nothing more than to find money. She found eleven pesos the other day. She knows the best spots—underneath park benches and near the counter of the OXXO.

July23-4 July23-6

When the balloon fun winds down it is time for cupcake baking.

July23-7 July23-8 July23-9

It sucks waiting for the cupcakes to finish baking. In kid time this takes eleven hours.

July23-10 July23-11 July23-12 July23-13 July23-14

This was the first time Lowe could blow the candles out on his own. Proud little boy.

July23-15 July23-30

Maraschino cherries—a cupcake tradition. Me never getting so much as a single one of them—my kids’ tradition.

July23-16 July23-17 July23-18 July23-31

Months ago Ouest already knew what she wanted to get Lowe for his birthday—a piggy bank. She loves her “piggy” and was sure that Lowe would love one as well. So a few weeks back we were walking down the street in Mexico City when Ali spotted the Spider-Man piggy bank. Ouest and I hung back and bought it while Lowe and Ali walked on ahead. Ouest was beside herself with excitement. Especially after we picked up a Spider-Man bag to put it in. It was sweet to see how much joy giving him this present gave her.

June20-31July23-19 July23-20

Then it was monster truck time.

July23-21 July23-22

And then, the bike. When we were in Mexico City we found this beat up yellow bike in the yard of a junk collector. Some people call them thrift shops. Anyway, one night after the kids went to bed I walked back, made the deal, and rolled the bike home. I then had to buy a couple of tools and a box of extra-large garbage bags in order to take it apart and wrap it up for transportation back to our bus. Ali and I laughed the whole way home via taxis and buses because not once did our kids question why I was lugging two big clanking garbage bags along with us.

June12-13

A couple of weeks later we were walking around Puebla when I suddenly disappeared into a store to buy new tires. The rest of the afternoon I carried a bag around with two bike tires in it, and again our kids never questioned me.

Finally, at our campground in Oaxaca I was able to get to work on the bike. When we had talked to Lowe about possibly getting a bike we asked him what color he would like. “Blue! And a little bit of rojo.” Thus, the red kickstand. It took a bit of work to get everything in working order again, fortunately the owner of the campground is a welder, among many other things. The seat post was rusted in and required cutting the tube to get the post out, then welding everything shut again.

Lowe’s reaction to the bike was funny. We could tell he was a little bit nervous about taking this big step of moving up to a pedal bike. But it didn’t take him long to get excited and take off. He’s still got some growing to do before it really fits him just right, but he’s a shredder, and minutes after riding off he was already practicing tricks.

Ouest loves the bike. She is now disappointed with her bike, and wants a banana seat more than anything.

July23-23 July23-24 July23-25 July23-26 July23-27 July23-28 July23-29

My first pedal bike was a Bruce Jenner model with a banana seat and sissy bar. I’m just sayin’.

JUL
20
2015

Puerto Escondido

We pulled into Puerto Escondido and made our way through a ten foot wide alley between an OXXO and a restaurant to a tiny campground across the street from the beach—Zicatela, Mexico’s Pipeline. It’s an insanely perfect camping location, though the campground itself is a bit of a dump. But hey, for eight bucks a night we’re essentially on what is one of the premier beaches in Mexico.

Our bank shut down our ATM card on us for the first time in a very long time, which left us scrambling through the weekend in what is a very cash oriented society. By Monday morning we had three pesos (that’s eighteen cents) left to our name, and that included Ouest’s piggy bank, which now held an I.O.U. A call to the bank confirmed that Wal-Mart was once again the culprit. It seems like every time our credit card or bank card is flagged for suspicious activity it is after a Wal-Mart stop. Anyway, cash in hand again on Monday morning we were spending like rock stars. I was feeling so generous that Ouest’s thirty-six peso I.O.U. was repaid with four pesos in interest. This despite the fact that we had borrowed that money to buy her and Lowe ice cream.

We also got our air conditioner repaired. It pains me to say that. I feel like a geriatric just typing those words. Before you know it I’ll be telling you about my arthritis. Having and using an air conditioner to me is such a sign of weakness. I pretty much spurn anything related to making our lives comfortable. And yet there are probably very few people reading this who aren’t themselves sitting in an air conditioned room right at this moment.

Anyway, it’s a long, boring story, but basically I drilled a hole into the back of our air conditioner which immediately caused it to blow out every last bit of coolant (I did this in an effort to help it drain more efficiently). In Oaxaca we finally brought it in to a place that was happy to repair the hole I had made, but that for the life of them could not track down the correct gas to refill it with. They eventually gave me back our partially repaired unit and wouldn’t accept any payment. Down here on the sweltering coast it took exactly one stop in town to find the gas. They filled it back up and for thirty bucks we could cool the kids’ room off before bed again.

Puerto Escondido—or more specifically, Zicotela Beach—is a beach bum surfer town. The strip we are on is a few blocks long and consists of nothing more than a couple of dozen restaurants/bars, a handful of t-shirt shops, and a few surf shops. There is little more to do than hang out on the beach and drink beer. So…

It sucks having kids that hate water so much.

July20-1 July20-2 July20-3 July20-4 July20-5 July20-6 July20-7 July20-8